Ety Khatun did not expect more than one medal in the South Asian Games, let alone any spotlight, despite her coaches and the officials of Bangladesh Archery Federation holding high hopes for her.
To Rajib Uddin Ahmed, the founding father of archery in Bangladesh and the general secretary of the federation, she is a special talent who will earn Bangladesh many glories in future.
‘She is just 14 now and this is only her beginning. I am sure she will win many more medals for us,’ Rajib told reporters in Pokhara on Sunday with a big smile on his face after a stunning show of Bangladeshi players in the archery field.
Bangladesh won six gold medals in six archery events they competed on the day and joining with women cricketers, who also won a gold medal, the archery players made it a memorable day for the country.
Ety joined a host of other archery players in a gold spree, keeping her hand in women’s recurve team event and recurve mixed event, which made her now a double gold medallist in SA Games.
Among all the gold medal winners, federation secretary Rajib held a special affection for Ety, not because of her age or talent, but due to how she embraced the game three years ago in a dramatic situation.
Ety’s family arranged her marriage in December, 2016 when she was just 11 and a student of class six as her hotel worker father Ibadat Ali could not afford to keep her in school.
This was the period when National Sports Council was holding a talent hunt programme in Chuadanga district and Ety came across a local coach, who asked her to join the programme to escape marriage.
Ety grabbed the opportunity with both hands by highly impressing the coaches with her talent and was eventually picked up for long-term training in Dhaka, which changed her life completely.
‘Our game is such a game that if you rest for three days, you may lose you performance. This is why it is important for us to continue training round the year,’ Ety told reporters on Sunday.
At the insistence of the federation, Ety’s family abandoned the plan to marry her off and allowed her to learn the game in a training camp that went round year at the Ahsanullah Master Stadium in Tongi.
Though Ety won just one bronze medal at the national level in the past three years, the federation did not lose their hopes on her and she rewarded their faith in the SA Games by winning two gold medals.
On her way to women’s individual recurve final, Ety beat Petay Karma of Bhutan, an Olympic qualifier, who was favourite to win a gold medal in the event.
‘I did not even know she qualified for Olympics. I came to know about this only after the competition,’ said Ety.
‘When I played with her I felt nothing special and she also shot badly and thanks to Allah I did well,’ said Ety.
After knocking out Karma in the semi-final, Ety is now the strong favourite to win this event and if she succeeds today it will be her third gold medal. For a girl who is still a teenager and escaped child marriage barely three years ago this is no small achievement.
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